Letterboxing & geocaching

What is Letterboxing?

The activity of Letterboxing originated on Dartmoor – it was started in 1854 when James Perrott of Chagford set up a small cairn at Cranmere Pool on north Dartmoor. Inside he put a glass jar where visitors who had ventured to the lonely, bleak spot could leave their visiting cards.

From this hikers on the moors began to leave a letter or postcard inside a box along the trail, hence the name "letterboxing". The next person to discover the site would collect the postcards and post them.

Letterboxing combines orienteering with treasure hunting and puzzle solving and is a great way to introduce children and young people to the joys of exploring Dartmoor and improve navigation skills.

How do I get started?

If you are planning on siting a letterbox walk or taking part more information can be found on the official letterboxing website. Ensure that you have read the Code of Conduct.

If you are siting a letterbox walk you must also contact the National Park Authority at least two months in advance. There is an application system that ensures walks are not sensitively sited and do not conflict with each other.

Ground nesting Birds

The ground nesting bird season is from 1 March to 31 July. When choosing a geocache or letterbox site it is important that nesting birds are not disturbed. They should not be sited in rare nesting bird areas, maps of these areas can be found here. It is important to remember that rare and common birds also nest outside of the defined areas across the open moorland. The more common species such as wheatear, meadow pipit and skylark will nest where there is suitable habitat, so avoid placing geocaches or letterboxes in areas of rocky clitter or in areas of dense heather and gorse. 

When looking for geocaches or letterboxes during the ground nesting bird season, walkers should stick to existing paths and tracks as much as possible. Dogs should also be kept on a short lead during the ground nesting bird season.

What is Geocaching?

Geocaching is a similar activity to letterboxing, but you use satellite navigation devices called GPS (Global Positioning System) receivers and maps to hunt out the hidden caches.

How do I get started?

Visit the geocaching website  to find out about caches on Dartmoor.  Registration is free.

Find out the co-ordinates and clues for your nearest caches - the quickest way is to enter a postcode. Choose which ones you want to bag and then download or enter the co-ordinates manually into your GPS receiver. Check out the best way to get to the location using an Ordnance Survey map (OL 28 for Dartmoor) and then off you go!

If you find a cache (and some are very hard to spot) there are often trade items in them that you can swap and a log book for you to record your visit. Back home you can log your visit online.  

Geocaching guidelines

  • When placing a geocache, make sure there is a public right of access
  • Position caches so they do not disturb sensitive wildlife or archaeological sites
  • Maintenance of the cache is the responsibility of the placer
  • Clearly mark the cache and give your contact email address/other contact method
  • Only include items inside the cache that are safe and acceptable
  • No food or drink of any kind should be placed in the cache
  • Do not cross fences, walls or hedges when placing or hunting for a cache
  • Do not bury the cache in a hole, or animal run
  • Do not disturb or damage any Scheduled Monument or Site of Special Scientific Interest
  • Do not leave the cache inside a polythene bag - grazing animals have been known to die eating a discarded bag